Fire service cuts campaigners hand in 1,500-signature petition

The Defend Our Fire Services campaign group set up against proposed cuts to the Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue service has handed in a petition with around 1,500 signatures to the county council.

The petition was launched on January 15 in response to cuts signalled in order to save £90 million by 2018/19. It had attracted over 1,000 signatures within one week.

The Fire Brigades Union in Lincolnshire and Lincoln & District TUC backed the petition, which stated:

“In response to the Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Integrated Risk Management Planning consultation we, the undersigned, demand of Lincolnshire County Council:

  • NO to cuts in firefighter crew levels in Lincolnshire;
  • NO to longer fire service response times in Lincolnshire;
  • NO to cuts in other council services to fund fire and rescue services;
  • YES to demanding more money from central government to fund our county’s fire services.”

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue consulted with residents on proposals that would lead to firefighter job cuts, slower response times and fewer firefighters attending incidents.

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The consultation closes on Friday, February 6, after which feedback received will be considered by Lincolnshire County Council. Figures so far indicate that around 120 people have taken part.

A recommendation will be made to the council’s Executive on March 3.

Elaine Smith, speaking on behalf of Defend Our Fire Services, said: “If we’d asked people about the cuts proposals in November, with a few exceptions no one would have known what we were talking about.

“The consultation organised by Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service was poorly promoted, and unfortunately there were only a handful of consultation meetings around the county and they were held just before and after the Christmas period, which meant the turnout was predictably low.

“Throughout the course of the campaign that we’ve led, many more people are aware about the cuts plans and the danger these proposals bring to their local communities. We hope that the council listen to the concerns of firefighters and local residents alike and withdraw these cuts plans.”

The group said altogether the petition gained around 1,500 signatures, however final counts and verifications are still to be made.

Dave Ramscar, chief fire officer for Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, said: “We are confident that our proposals will have no significant impact on our ability to protect the public. The county council has to find annual savings of £90m and it’s only right the fire service plays its part.

“We have made every effort to inform local residents of how we think we can make these savings, and so far we have received over 120 responses. It has also been encouraging to hear some sensible and highly constructive feedback in our public events.

“What many people may not realise, is that despite considerable strain on local authority budgets in recent years, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue has been able to deliver significant improvements to its capability across the county. Since 2010, we have increased the number of fire engines crewed by wholetime firefighters on a 24 hour basis from two to nine, and on average our on-call firefighters across the county train for an extra hour each week.

“During this time there has been no reduction in the number of fire engines or fire stations and we have been able to make significant investments in new appliances and equipment, to allow our firefighters to continue to deliver a first class fire and rescue service for Lincolnshire.

“I would like to encourage anyone who hasn’t yet shared their views on our proposals, to have their say online or call us on 01522 582222 by midnight tomorrow.”